Fling Help Around Like Glitter

By Karen Grosz

Glitter is not welcome in our house. I don’t like it in my fingernail polish, on birthday cards, or even on Christmas ornaments. It is not because I am a fastidious housekeeper — far from it. Our home looks lived in. I just don’t need glitter to sparkle and shine, lighting the way to dust that is well past its season. (The red glitter on the table at Easter really should have been dealt with in February.) I know some of you fling glitter hither and yon, letting it add gaiety to your everyday occurrences, and pomp to your circumstances. 

That’s what I do with help. I find that I am addicted to helping others. I like to open doors, provide meals, give advice — oh, my advice — much of which I get to charge for as a life and business coach. Recently, I went to lunch with a young mom, Kassi Strong, who, as the program director for Rocky Mountain Women’s Business Center, does great things for businesswomen around our state.

We talked, among other things, about potty training her toddler, and offering my helpful advice was a huge treat for me. (Elders love to pass on our wisdom!) I’ve donated time and money to causes right and left, up and down, and have a new goal to set up a scholarship for women who, like me, no one believed were intelligent enough to make a difference. I’m not quite sure how to word that application, but I’ll figure it out. 

As I’ve added my glitter-free sparkle to the world, I’ve noticed that most of us don’t know how to help. Most people are just like me, doing what we can, when we can, but always wondering if we did the right thing in the right way. So, I am going to offer you some of my free advice, which, as they say, may be worth what you paid for it, but I am hoping it has a little more value. 

My three favorite ways to “help” the world and those around us: money, time, things. 

The first is philanthropic, planned giving. It’s all well and good, necessary even, and I am glad you are doing it, if you are. If you aren’t, talk to your CPA or financial adviser, and they will help you get started. That said, if that is all you do, I am going to tell you it’s not enough, which brings me to my second way to help: time.

Nick Enslow gave a powerful TEDx speech in October, titled “Building Generational Wealth in Our Youth,” which discusses how we should think of children, specifically mentoring children, as our greatest investment. I agree, and I hope you will watch his speech because mentoring teens has become my greatest work.

Another example of helping with time happened when my brother committed suicide. We received casseroles, phone calls and monetary gifts, all of which were appreciated, but what I look back on as the most helpful were the people who simply sat with us. They gave us time and space to remember, to grieve, to heal. Those moments ranged from 10-minute calls to an entire, unplanned afternoon and evening sitting together. The most precious thing we have to give is the thing people value the most, our time. It may be reading a book to children in the park with Kelly McCandless and the Education Foundation or reaching out to a phone buddy through Big Sky Senior Services. Time does not cost anything, but its value is priceless.

I’ve talked about it before: the I’ll Help Page on Facebook, where thousands of Billings residents ask for and give help. The actions on that page are so beautiful that I end up in tears if I immerse myself in it. The shampoo you didn’t like is the shampoo someone can’t afford to buy, and clean hair might make the difference in landing the job they are interviewing for tomorrow.

I have seen a few stingy givers (do this, and I’ll give you that) and sticky takers (I’ll take everything I can get). There are also do-gooders who only do good with a camera in their hand, which is just sad. Mostly, what I have learned from that page is empathy and that offering help should come with delivery. If you want to help someone with a bottle of shampoo, but they have to drive across town and arrive at a specific time to receive that help, that help costs more than it’s worth. Still, the item you are tired of dusting, possibly because of its glitter content, could change another person’s reality. The other thing the page has taught me to do is make a BIG gesture.

A big gesture for me has meant friends and I pooling our money, our resources, our knowledge, to give an unknown stranger a real and dramatic hand up. This year, as I handed our recipient the first envelope of cash, he cried. The second envelope contained substantially more and he said, “I can get my children into a home now.” And the final envelope was when he said, “Who can I help with this?” Who can I help? Beautiful.

It is in our nature to help, to root for the underdog, to make a difference to our fellow humans. And, really, you can’t do it in a way that is not right. Well. The camera in their face is not very nice. But, giving someone your time, your skills, your love, is never wrong. 

Right now, my Canvas Creek team and I are working in high schools with a process called Figure It Out. During a Figure It Out, they develop a Leadership Solution to a problem in their school community. They ask, and I think these will be great questions for you,

Who do we want to help?

Why do we want to help them?

When will we do this?

Do we need permission?

Is there a cost?

Most importantly, who can assist us with this solution?

Students have come up with both simple and complex solutions, which they implement themselves. They are part of the solution, and that is what helping should be about. 

Then, we talk to them about empathy. I think that can be built by asking the most overlooked question, “What do you need?” Often, we judge others needs by our standards when our standards are unfair to their situation. Recently, a homeless mom told one of my friends, “My kids would like a bag of oranges.” Oranges. I would not have guessed that, but it was a need easily met. Next, what can WE do? I have never offered someone help that didn’t want to be part of the solution or to help the next person. What can we do, together? It’s a beautiful question.

The best question is: How can I help? You might feel underqualified, time-starved, broke and disillusioned, but I promise you, there is someone out there who would be thrilled to have a moment of your time, your advice, your help, especially if they are already busy helping. Follow their lead, and go spread a little helpful glitter around our amazing hometown. Just don’t send me a glitter bomb to celebrate the joy you feel. Please.  


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